Judge upholds ruling denying Danville alderman hopeful's complaint against opponent

Judge upholds ruling denying Danville alderman hopeful's complaint against opponent

DANVILLE — A Vermilion County judge upheld a Danville Election Commission decision denying a Danville City Council candidate's complaint against his opponent's petitions.

Danville aldermanic candidate Jerry Hawker, who is challenging incumbent Alderman Rick Strebing's candidacy in Ward 2 in April's municipal elections, objected to Strebing listing the April 2 consolidated election date on his petition documents rather than the Feb. 26 primary date.

Hawker and his attorney argued that the correct date, per wording on his candidate's statement, should be the date of the primary, regardless of whether a primary is eventually held or not.

At the time Strebing filed, nobody knew if a primary would be necessary.

Hawker also objected on the grounds that Strebing's petitions, which include signatures of voters in the ward, were improperly fastened together with a clip.

State election code and subsequent state case law include requirements for proper fastening of petitions, particularly to protect against someone tampering with the documents.

The Danville Election Commission rejected his complaints in a unanimous vote on Dec. 12, stating that Strebing's petitions were substantially compliant.

Hawker then took his complaints to circuit court, where his attorney, Eric Eves of Acton and Snyder, argued at Thursday's hearing that previous Illinois cases establish that a candidate in a nonpartisan election must include the correct date of the election on filing papers and must secure them together properly and list the correct date of the election.

Prefacing his ruling, Associate Judge Derek Girton said at the hearing Thursday that removing a candidate from an election ballot is an extreme measure and emphasized that this is a democracy.

"Essentially, you are asking me to decide an election rather than the voters of Ward 2," Girton said.

He said the specific requirements for candidate petitions in the state's election code serve an important purpose, but he ruled that the majority of Strebing's documentation was in compliance with those, including all of the voter signatures, and therefore met the standard of substantial compliance.

"I don't see a failure to substantially comply," he said, adding that his petitions may not have been in complete compliance but were in substantial compliance and agrees with the commission's ruling.

So, Hawker and Strebing will both remain on the ballot for the Ward 2 alderman seat, and with no need for a primary, they will go head to head in the April 2 consolidated election.

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Tags (1):Election 2019
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